Dr Hilary says Lambda covid variant is ‘concern’
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Lambda, a strain of COVID-19, has been worrying officials across South America due to its “unusual” set of mutations. The mutant variant, scientifically known as C.37, has been detected in a small handful of areas across the UK. Public Health England (PHE) began treating it as a “variant under investigation” in late June, and is now being monitored as scientists try and work out whether it’s more resistant to vaccines and antibodies.
What is the Lambda variant?
Lambda is characterised by mutations in the spike protein, leading some scientists to investigate whether it has the potential to be more infectious.
Researchers are also exploring whether vaccines currently in use work effectively against the variant.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers it a variant of interest.
Scientists around the world are concerned a lack of adequate genomic sequencing in South America has enabled the variant to spread undetected from its original source.
The Lambda strain was first found in Peru late in 2020, and is now widespread across South American countries and the USA.
While it has been detected in other parts of the world, the numbers are much smaller when compared to, for example, the Delta variant.
Reports say Lambda now accounts for more than 80 percent of cases in Peru and is popping up more and more in the UK and mainland Europe – which are already battling increased cases.
By the end of June, Lambda had been detected in countries including the UK, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and Portugal.
PHE says there is currently limited evidence on how Lambda’s genomic changes affect infected people.
However, at the time of officially labelling the strain a variant under investigation in June, the public health body noted there was no evidence it caused more severe illness or is resistant to vaccines.
Scientists are now investigating whether it’s more transmissible after it spread like wildfire through Peru.
Pablo Tsukayama, a doctor on molecular microbiology in Lima, Peru, said that when medics first noted the variant in December, it accounted for one in 200 samples and by March had soared to about half of all samples.
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This would suggest its transmission rate is higher than other variants circulating the country, according to Mr Tsukayama.
But Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) regional adviser on emerging viral disease, Jairo Mendez, said: “At the moment there is no evidence to suggest it’s more aggressive than other variants.
“It’s possible that it is a higher rate of contagion, but more work needs to be done on it.”
PHE said there is still plenty of work to be done to work out the Lambda variant’s full impact and how best to control its spread.
How many Lambda variant cases are there?
According to the latest update from PHE, eight total confirmed and probable Lambda cases have been uncovered in the UK.
All of these cases have been detected in England.
PHE’s last monitoring report said six confirmed cases have been traced, picked up between February 23 and June 7.
Four cases were identified in London, one in the south west of England and another in the West Midlands.
As things stand, no deaths had been reported within 28 days of any of those cases.
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